What if a simple act, some dedicated effort or sacrifice could alter your life, your soul forever? What if that sacrifice took an hour or two or even an entire day? Would you do it?
Twelve years ago, Wendy Little and Suzanne Niles felt prompted to journey down the road of fasting and prayer together. Now, why, would two average women who love to talk and sincerely love food want to give it up for any period of time? God was asking them to draw closer to Him in a new way. They believed, they studied, but in the hidden parts of their heart we knew there was more.
Fast Friends: The Amazing Power of Friendship, Fasting and Prayer, written by Suzanne Niles and Wendy Simpson Little, released October 1st, 2015. The process of creating the book impacted them in ways they hadn’t imagined. Suzanne explains that: “It has forever altered our very existence… We see people different, we see life different. All because a God who loves us more than we could ever comprehend planted a seed in our heart of desire to draw closer to Him. Fasting and prayer was the tool, finely fashioned by the hand of God and lived out in the Bible by so very many of the faithful so that we could follow.”
Sonoma Christian Home caught up with Author Suzanne Niles to further discuss her journey of fasting and prayer, as well as her advice for newcomers to the discipline of fasting.
SCH: How did you two get started on this journey of relationship fasting and prayer?
SN: It was the summer of 2003 and I felt that the Lord was asking me to spend one day a week in fasting in prayer. I figured I would do it when the kids went back to school in September but then Wendy called me two weeks later and said, hey, how would you like to fast and pray together one day a week. Well, that did it, I didn’t wait any longer. We made a commitment and started in.
SCH: How did you come up with the title Fast Friends?
SN: About a month or two into our fasting partnership, Wendy called me and said, “The Lord showed me that he wants us to write down what we learn and write a book. We are supposed to call it Fast Friends.
SCH: What is your response to those who question what fasting can do for them?
SN: You know, my response would be it wasn’t what we expected. We thought oh, fast and pray equals great big answers! Yahoo!, But what it really was, was far more important. It was learning to sacrifice so we could devote time to prayer, it was getting alone with God and having him speak to us through his word and at times, through a thought he would reveal. It was having us show us our sin, so that he could gently lead us to repentance so that we could grow in him. And yes, our prayers were answered, not always as we desired, but God drew so very close to us and our intimacy with him was deeper than ever before.
SCH: Why is it important to include prayer with fasting?
SN: It is important to include prayer with fasting because it is biblical. When you read accounts in the word about fasting, it was always to seek God wisdom, pray for healing, pray for God’s help, and we do share some of those passages in the book.
SCH: Did you have any concerns when you first started?
SN: Yes, because Wendy and I love food! Especially nachos and chocolate. But that is where it was really helpful to have the accountability of a partner. But the best part of the being Fast Friends, is that I knew she was praying for my kids, my husband, my life with the same passion as I did and I prayed that way for her.
SCH: How does fasting help us identify sin and break bondage in our lives?
SN: God promises that when we seek him, we will find him. When you are taking time out of your day and food away from your mouth to get alone with the Lord and seek him, he shows up. As you ask him to reveal anything that may be sin in your life he will lovingly bring it to mind. As you grow in Christ through your intimacy with him, your ability through the Holy Spirit to break down strongholds will develop. In Eph. 1 it says that the same power that God exerted when he raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. If you believe scripture, pray and repent of sin, then bondage will be broken.
SCH: What were some of the answers to prayer that you received?
SN: Wendy’s daughter Sydney was born with Cerebral Palsy. At four, Wendy was told that Syd would need multiple surgeries until she was done growing. She is fourteen today and never had a single one of those surgeries.
SCH: Did you ever feel like you wouldn’t have the time or you couldn’t keep your fast friend commitment?
SN: Oh of course we did. We failed, but we didn’t give up. This is not a legalistic practice, but the result of hearts that want more than anything to know Jesus better and love him more.
SCH: What type of fast did the two of you engage in?
SN: One day a week, and we mainly stuck with liquids. There were times it was only water, and times it was juice, or anything that didn’t require chewing, basically.
SCH: What encouragement would you give to those considering becoming fast friends?
SN: Pray about it and ask God to help you identify your fast friends, and to reveal it to that person also. And remember, when you pray, you need to pray believing that God will hear and answer. If you really want to walk closer to God than you ever have before, I would encourage you to definitely enter into this type of spiritual discipline.
SCH: You discuss fasting is an act of worship. In what ways do we worship through fasting?
SN: It’s a sacrifice. It shows that you are willing to give up something that is important to you, something that is a struggle to relinquish in order to honor spending time with the Lord. You are honoring him, honoring the relationship, and putting him first and denying yourself. As far as a type of worship, Wendy and I love Christian music and that is definitely a given for our fasting day.
SCH: How can we use prayer and fasting to pray for our marriage or children?
SN: When you think about all of the things we do in life to try and have a good marriage or raise children, there is nothing, not a single thing more important than prayer. Prayer changes things, prayer changes people because God works through prayer. When you pray and fast for your marriage and children you are taking those you love most right before the throne of God.
There is nothing more powerful. If you aren’t praying for them, who is? There may come a time, when a situation in your life is so painful, or a trial so difficult, that you can’t even find the words to pray for your own marriage or children, but having a Fast Friend who will just means you always have support that you can count on.
SCH: What can Fast Friends do to make sure they stay committed to each other?
SN: Stay accountable and stay honest. Look, the answers to prayer you will receive and the closeness of sharing this type of relationship with a sister in Christ will be enough to make you want to stay committed. Never judge, always show grace and mercy and remember that you are called to love as Jesus loves.
SCH: How has your relationship with Jesus changed as a result of being Fast Friends?
SN: It has grown in ways I would have never imagined. He has truly become my first love. It has helped me willingly lay down my life for him. I crave time with him and I find my conversations kind of just run on throughout the day. I get excited about my fasting and prayer days because I have truly learned the amazing power and value of prayer. We get to talk to God, we get to tell him our deepest thoughts, he says in his word “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and magnificent things you do not know” I don’t understand how anyone could turn that down!
SCH: How should one prepare for a fast?
SN: It helps to have a plan. Have your type of fast agreed upon with your Fast Friend. If you have a family to feed, maybe make up their meals ahead of time, the day before. Or maybe another family member can cook. There are lots of ways to be prepared, but most of all, anticipate the presence of your Savior as you turn to him, giving him all of your attention realizing that he will be present with you. That is what is so thrilling to me.
SCH: What should they initially expect to experience?
SN: It could be very different for everyone, but definitely for us, hunger, temptation, maybe a little unsure of whether or not you can do it, but you have to remember to depend on Jesus. With every hunger pang, pray, with every temptation, pray, with every doubt, pray and believe that God will give you the strength to run the race and finish well.
SCH: What is the best way to connect with you – through your social media handles?
SN: Our website is fastfriendsbook.com, and you can find us on Facebook by searching “Fast Friends”.
Experience the joy of fasting and hear more about Suzanne’s story by picking up a copy of Fast Friends, available at Amazon.com.